Can You Spare Five Minutes to Secure for $900 Million for Our State and Country’s Parks and Natural Areas?
By George Dusenbury, Executive Director for The Trust for Public Land in Georgia
Think about how much your local parks, our region’s trails and our state’s natural areas enrich your life. Do you value them enough to spend five minutes of your time to ensure their future?
For the past 40 years, our country’s most significant source of federal funding for parks, natural areas and cultural sites, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), has been whittled down. Congress established LWCF in 1964 to protect important land, water and cultural heritage. Each year, $900 million (primarily revenue from offshore federal oil and gas leases– not taxes), is set aside for LWCF. But Congress determines how much will be spent preserving land and protecting water each year, and since 1978, roughly half of LWCF has been spent for other purposes.
The Trust for Public Land and many other organizations have worked for years to compel Congress to direct all LWCF funds to their intended purpose. Poorly planned development, growing cities and increasing demands on natural resources mean that it is more important than ever to fully fund LWCF. But we can’t do it alone. The time is now for you to speak up for the parks, trails and natural areas you love.
In September of this year, Congress let LWCF expire. Every day that passes with no LWCF means less money for conservation. If Congress does not renew LWCF in the waning days of 2018, the process of reinstating this critical federal funding will have to begin again.
Fortunately, LWCF enjoys bipartisan support, and many members of Congress have signed on as sponsors of S. 569, legislation that would allocate the full $900 million in LWCF for its intended purpose. And while S. 569 was voted out of committee to the floor of the Senate, the calendar is not on our side. Congress is currently in session, but the list of issues in front of our legislators is long. Please take action now: contact Georgia’s senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue today and urge them to join the bipartisan list of Senators sponsoring S. 569.
Our Senators’ support is essential to having the plentiful parks and easy access to outdoor recreation to meet the needs of a growing population–supporting a $27 billion outdoor recreation industry in our state. Studies show that people with access to parks are more apt to exercise, and spending time in nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and combats depression. Parks reduce flooding, filter pollutants from rainwater and provide critical habitat for wildlife.
Preserving our land and waterways requires significant investment. The LWCF has provided more than $40 million to help acquire 27 properties totaling more than 800 acres within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area alone. As The Trust for Public Land and our partners work to expand protected land along the Chattahoochee while improving access through expanded trails and enhanced recreational opportunities, LWCF dollars will be essential.
Federal, state, local and philanthropic funding sources are all leveraged off of each other to create, expand and care for parks. Just last week, 83 percent of Georgia voters said “YES” to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment, creating our state’s first dedicated funding for land preservation. Without LWCF funding, the opportunity to leverage the funds generated by the Amendment will be diminished, potentially reducing its impact over the long-term.
Let’s let Congress know we expect them to allocate all Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars for their intended purpose. There is so much at stake: thousands of acres of Georgia open space are lost to development every year. To support our region’s continued growth and the health and happiness of all Georgians, please take that five minutes—right now—to ask senators Isakson and Perdue to cosponsor S. 568. Urge them to represent Georgia’s values and continue the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Photo: The National Park Service is using LWCF funds to add the Drowning Rock parcel (pictured) to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.